Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Atheist Scientist Claims Religion Will Be Gone in a Generation. Is He Right?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Atheist Scientist Claims Religion Will Be Gone in a Generation. Is He Right?

Article excerpt

Religion can be eradicated in one generation?

That's according to atheist scientist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, who recently stoked controversy with comments suggesting that religion could disappear in the near future if schools gave students the tools to determine as much.

"What we need to do is present comparative religion as a bunch of interesting historical anecdotes, and show the silly reasons why they did what they did," Krauss said at an Aug. 29 dinner presentation on cosmology and education at the Victorian Skeptics Cafe in Melbourne, Australia, in response to a question about religion being taught in schools. The video of his response was uploaded on Monday to YouTube.

"People say, 'Well, religion has been around since the dawn of man. You'll never change that,'" said Krauss, who the Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. He argued that religion will go the way of slavery and opposition to gay marriage.

"This issue of gay marriage, it is going to go away, because if you're a child, a 13-year-old, they can't understand what the issue is," he continued. "It's gone. One generation is all it takes."

"So, I can tell you a generation ago people said there is no way people would allow gay marriage, and slavery - essentially - [gone in] a generation; we got rid of it," Krauss said.

"Change is always one generation away. So if we can plant the seeds of doubt in our children, religion will go away in a generation, or at least largely go away. And that's what I think we have an obligation to do."

Krauss is a self-described antitheist, or a person in active opposition to religion. Along with Richard Dawkins, he created the documentary "The Unbelievers," about the importance of science and reason as opposed to religion and superstition.

Krauss's comments may reflect a general trend of backlash against institutions, including religious institutions, apparent in American culture today.

Some 25 years ago, only 5 percent of Americans identified as non- religious, or not affiliated with a religious group. Today, that figure is around 20 percent or more in the general population, according to Pew Research Center polling. Among the 18-25 age group, the demographic Krauss refers to in his talk, over 30 percent identify as non-religious.

While the numbers represent "a dramatic decline in affiliation with organized religion," a claim as extreme as Krauss's can only come from someone who doesn't understand religion or history, says Douglas Jacobsen, a professor of church history and theology at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Penn.

"The idea that you can eradicate religion through an educational program is absurd," he says in a phone interview. "These are the kinds of statements people make when they're talking about a field of study they don't understand. …

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